When the Oscars are announced, the Internet will be poised to erupt in pure joy or furious anger depending on whether or not a Disney song wins. This might sound strange, since the Internet tends to be largely populated by cold-hearted cynics and Disney songs are notoriously saccharine.
But there's something incredibly powerful about "Let It Go," the centerpiece tune to Disney's neo-princess pic Frozen, which has ironically managed to melt all those cold, cold hearts.
"Let it Go" is not a lock by any means. It lost the Golden Globe earlier this year to "Ordinary Love," U2's tribute to Nelson Mandela and Pharell's perfectly named "Happy," off last year's "Despicable Me 2" soundtrack, has climbed to the top of the charts in recent weeks.
But at this point it doesn't even matter if "Let It Go" wins an Oscar, as it's already won life.
The song, written by wife-and-husband duo Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez , has amazingly achieved its outsize success virally rather than through the Mouse House's marketing team. In fact, Disney commissioned a pop version of the song for ex-Disney child star Demi Lovato as they had no faith in the original version sung by Idina Menzel, who rose to fame as the star of Broadway smash Wicked and also played Lea Michele's mom on Glee. Her powerhouse version nonetheless cracked the top 20 first.
The YouTube video of the song, scoring the film's most powerful scene as Queen Elsa unleashes the full force of her cryogenic powers, has surpassed 115-million views since it was posted in December. (Demi's has pulled an additional 85 million.)
It didn't stop there, however. Countless covers quickly began appearing online and getting millions of views themselves -- Disney even got in the act in late January, releasing an amazing multilingual cut that mashed up vocals from the 25 different language dubs the film was released in. There are countless parodies (the Mr. Freeze one with faux-Arnie vocals and the weatherman ones are particularly great) and Buzzfeed lists, too, as the song permeated pop culture.
Over-sweetness aside, Disney obviously has a history of putting great songs in its animated musicals, going as far back as our own pick for the best-ever original song Oscar-winner, "When You Wish Upon a Star." The Walt wave of films like Snow White and Cinderella all boasted crooned classics and Disney's second golden age of films, beginning with 1989's The Little Mermaid, were as notable for their songs as their stories
And Disney pretty much had a lock on this Oscar category throughout the '90s, even when the songs started sucking. Remember the Oscar-winning songs from Pocahontas or Tarzan? I didn't think so.
But "Let it Go" is unique in how it has become a genuine cultural phenomenon, outlasting the film it came from, knocking Beyonce off the chart top as the soundtrack pushed platinum and reaching well beyond its target kiddie audience.
The kids, of course, love it because it's a wonderful melody delivered with emotional vocals, but the lyrics are what have helped it aim higher. Disney has been attempting feel-good girl-power films since the backlash began against their traditional one-day-my-prince-will-come aesthetic.
But Frozen is the first to actually deliver on that girl power promise -- in another age, Elsa would be the villain and "Let It Go" would be the moment she succumbs to her dark side. But instead it's a rebellion against the shackles of fear, shame and guilt that society still puts on girls and women.
"Let it Go" is a multi-octave broadside against bullying and sexism and the need to "be the good girl you always have to be." It's about not just resisting this societal pressure, but dismissing it altogether and refusing to hide your feelings or change your behaviour.
"I just brought my own experience to the song: being a woman and how women are sort of afraid of our own power sometimes," Menzel told us earlier this year. "It's maybe scary to unleash that power. You think you're going to alienate people. Yet most of the time, I've learned in my life now, when I've finally really relinquished that inside me, I think it's really special and so many more doors open up."
Or as she sings: "I don't care what they're going to say. Let the storm rage on. The cold never bothered me anyway."
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